My grandmother gave me the book Countdown to the Apocalypse by Grant R. Jeffrey. I consider myself pretty familiar with end times stuff, and I have to admit I came it from a bias of wondering how much of it was wrong and whether it already looked dated in 2013 from being published in 2008. I tend to be skeptical of those who think they personally understand the world well enough to super-confidently predict its future, whether it’s climate scientists predicting temperature increases, financial gurus predicting economic collapses, or eschatological scholars predicting the end of the world (as they’ve been doing since at least Christ’s ascension).
This book focuses on the prophecies of Daniel, exploring pretty traditional, well-worn ground about what those prophecies said about the historical Roman and Babylonian and other empires (which is actually pretty cool), as well as what those prophecies say about the future (which is also pretty interesting), and of course how current events supposedly tie into it (which is… not that great).
Jeffrey speaks repeatedly about his confidence that eschatological things (i.e. Rapture, Tribulation, Anti-Christ, Millennial Kingdom, etc, etc) will happen “in our lifetimes,” mainly because Israel became a nation again in 1948. He finally gets around to sort of explaining that he believes these things will happen soon because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place,” which apparently means that the generation that saw Israel reborn will also see all the eschatological things, even though he doesn’t do much exegetical exercise connecting them. Of course, time is about to tell if Jeffrey will join the long line of over-confident end-times predictors, especially as it’s starting to become pretty stretchy to connect today to the generation of 1948 – it had already been 60 years when the book was published and now we’re going on 65.
Like many other books of generations past, the book tries to interpret current events through the lens of the coming apocalypse. Some of it’s standard stuff, like the rise of the cashless society paving the way for the mark of the beast. There’s some interesting stuff about a relatively new dam that can supposedly cut off the Euphrates, which is supposed to be tied to a prophecy somewhere, and some bizarre stuff about nations supposedly having genetic weapons to destroy enemies of different races at Armageddon (as if nations are still completely homogenous?).
But the book looks most irrelevant when it talks about Europe, which is supposed to be the base of a revived Roman Empire that springs the Anti-Christ or something. Eschatologists have been pointing to the European Union as a sign of the end times since it began, but this book had the unfortunate timing of pre-empting the financial collapse of 2007-2008 and the destabilization of European countries in the years that followed. Statements about the euro’s recent rise relative to the dollar and its increasing status as a reserve currency look almost foolish five years later. At this very moment Greece doesn’t seem quite as likely to leave the euro as it did about a year ago, but the breakup of the zone still seems more likely to me than increased continental sovereignty. Of course, a collapsed zone could still lead to a more united rebirth just like the secret talks Jeffrey alleges to in his book, but that just means that any scenario in Europe could eventually lead to the things Jeffrey believes will happen, which makes it useless to try to interpret current events as leading to it or not.